Thursday, 16 November 2017

REVIEW: Spamalot at New Victoria Theatre, Woking


"Lovingly ripped off from the hugely successful 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this spammier than ever production is a riotous comedy full of misfit knights, killer rabbits, dancing nuns and ferocious Frenchmen. Join King Arthur as he travels with his hapless Knights of the Round Table on a divine mission to locate the illusive Holy Grail – with uproarious consequences."

"Spamalot was the winner of the 2005 Tony Award for Best New Musical, while it enjoyed a victorious West End run. This hilarious show is written by Python legend Eric Idle."

On paper alone, Spamalot is outrageously funny and this script has been updated to be as relevant now as it was when it premiered 12 years ago. It's Python's classic style of humour and fans of the films and television shows will love it. With this production, sadly what it's missing is, well, people... 

An orchestra of only four pieces (not including Arthur and Lancelot's coconuts) leaves the music sounding incomplete - the sound is nowhere near as rounded as it could be and was a little disappointing. Similarly, this cast is simply too small for the show. It was very noticeable and the stage felt quite bare at times leaving me feeling quite cheated. When Arthur arrives in Camelot, we should feel the same sense of awe that Dorothy feels when she first arrives in The Emerald City, but with only two showgirls/Laker Girls and very limited ensemble to support them, it felt empty and underwhelming. However, the performers who did take to the stage were marvellous. 

Bob Harms's King Arthur was wonderfully dry humoured and suitably melodramatic. Alongside Rhys Owen as Patsy, the Robin to his Batman, the two were crowd favourites (despite a number of technical glitches on the way which meant Owen wasn't always completely audible).

As Lady of the Lake, Sarah Harlington's comic timing was perfect. This Avenue Q alumni was fabulously funny and showcased her powerhouse vocals to perfection. She delivered a Lady with more iciness and attitude than I've seen before - she wasn't warm in any way and it's a shame we didn't see more depth from her portrayal, but her performance was an excellent one nevertheless. 

As well as the aforementioned technical difficulties experienced by 'Patsy', throughout the entire evening we had sound balancing issues. I could see the girls in the ensemble singing but couldn't hear them and unfortunately this happened on more than one occasion. Other technical hitches included the black knight scene ("It's just a flesh wound") which started well but was cheaply finished. 

Marc Akinfolarin as Sir Bevedere (and other roles) was the inadvertent star of this show - he was hysterically funny in all his roles and his beaming smile magnetised the audience to him above all others. So at ease on the stage, he stole the show. 

This particular performance was captioned and to see the script alongside the performance allowed us to enjoy the ad-libbing talents of this fantastic cast. There is a natural humour which radiates from the stage - it's just a shame there weren't more cast members to amplify this. 

Sell-A-Door's Spamalot does feature moments of undeniable brilliance and I do not doubt you will laugh out loud at this production however, it is underwhelming due to its small cast.

Review by Harriet Langdown 

Rating: ★★★
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